Once again, the annual Apple lovefest otherwise known as WWDC brought out the party faithful to rejoice in the glorious technology vision of Apple. But how much of the innovation coming out of WWDC 2012 — the enhancements to the company’s mobile operating system, the gorgeous new MacBook Pros with Retina display, the improved Facebook mobile experience, and the new Siri functionality (she’s on iPad, integrated with Facebook and opens apps for you now!) — is actually a result of “the crowd” and not just the proprietary R&D prowess of a single company?
At a time when Apple does not even pretend to crowdsource and shrouds the launch of its new products in secrecy, is the power of the crowd and the global developer community what makes Apple so innovative?
When you take a look at the new Apple products announced at WWDC 2012, you realize how much the Apple developer ecosystem is actually driving innovation at the company. On a day when the star standout was hardware (the new MacBook Pro, referred to as the "most beautiful computer" ever made by Apple), the upfront section of the WWDC 2012 keynote speech was actually devoted to highlighting the achievements of the developer community, especially their extraordinary work in creating new applications. Calling them “new innovations for taking dreams further,” Apple specifically acknowledged the types of apps that can change the future of humanity, such as those that offer 3D views of human anatomy or shared travel experiences.
Beyond applications, developers have been a driving force behind the phenomenal success of Apple’s operating systems. The fact that there are now 400 million accounts on the App Store is a testament to the relentless innovation that is taking place within Apple’s operating systems and their ability to attract new users.
Now, here’s where the Apple rumor mill comes into play: It feeds the ambitions of the global developer community, generating debate about what to include in the next iteration of iOS and OS X from the people who are most familiar with Apple’s products.
It’s worth emphasizing the word global here. At WWDC 2012, attendees came from 160 countries and some of the announced innovations, such as language support for Siri in 60 languages, were specifically geared to this international audience.That’s right, it’s no longer enough to cater to the U.S. tech elite. Going forward, the battle between Apple (iOS) and Google (Android) will be as much about the the talent within their own walls as the talent within the global developer community and the willingness members of that community have to create for a specific ecosystem. And the company that makes it profitable for that community to create products for a specific platform will have the upper hand. In other words, VIP tickets to WWDC won’t cut it.
In the case of Apple, the company noted that $5 billion has been paid out to developers. That’s a powerful incentive. Apple will need to keep the momentum going with exciting new products that take advantage of retina display and Siri. The company will also need to continue to foster a developer community to take advantage of those innovations, and provide a powerful vision for how these innovations can change the future of humanity.
The Washington Post Co.’s chairman and chief executive, Donald E. Graham, is a member of Facebook’s board of directors.
Dominic Basulto is a digital thinker at Bond Strategy and Influence (formerly called Electric Artists) in New York. Prior to Bond Strategy and Influence, he was the editor of Fortune’s Business Innovation Insider and a founding member of Corante.com, one of the Web's first blog media companies. He also shares his thoughts on innovation on the Big Think Endless Innovation blog and is working on a new book on innovation called "Endless Innovation, Most Beautifuland Most Wonderful."
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